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What is a Raglan Shirt?

John C.


John C.


September 26, 2023

Oct 3, 2023

What is a Raglan Shirt?

Easily recognizable by their distinctive sleeves (often in contrasting colors), raglan shirts are a fashion favorite for people who want added comfort and style. Sometimes referred to as “baseball tees,” raglan shirts are a popular choice for both sports apparel and uniforms due to their construction, as well as for individuals who like a retro, throwback feel. 

We’ll explore the origins of raglan shirts, what makes them special, and how they differ from more traditionally-constructed tees. 

What is a Raglan Sleeve Shirt?

A raglan shirt has distinctive sleeves that start at the shirt’s neckline (or collar) and are attached to the body of the shirt with a diagonal seam. This allows for greater range of motion and a wider underarm area compared to more traditional sleeves that attach at the shoulder seam. Many raglan shirts feature sleeves and a neckline in a contrasting color from the shirt’s body. However, some raglan shirts are the same color throughout. 

Although raglan shirts as we know them today have a casual feel to them, the raglan sleeve first came into existence in 1864. The style was named for Lord FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, the 1st Baron Raglan, who lost his right arm while serving in the Hundred Days war, during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Baron’s tailor created a diagonal seam on his apparel to make it easier to dress and improve his range of motion on the battlefield and elsewhere.

While Baron Raglan favored this style of sleeve to make it easier to draw his sword and engage in combat, the raglan shirt was adopted by baseball players who needed additional range of motion to swing a bat or pitch a ball. 

Raglan Shirt Features


Raglan Sleeve

The sleeves are what make a raglan shirt so very, very… raglan-y. A raglan sleeve begins at the shirt’s neckline and is attached to the body via a diagonal seam. In most cases, raglan shirts feature either long sleeves or three-quarter length sleeves that end a few inches above the wrist. Raglan shirts also come in short-sleeve and cap sleeve styles. 

They differ from traditional (or “straight seam”) sleeves, which are attached to the body of a shirt in a vertical manner, extending directly from the shoulder seam. 

Bridging the gap between the two styles are semi-raglan sleeves, which are attached to the body portion of a shirt midway between the neckline and where a straight seam sleeve would sit. 

Neckline Variations

While raglan sleeve seams start at the neckline of a shirt, the type of neckline can vary across different raglan tee and shirt styles. 

  • Crew Neck: The most common style of raglan shirt is a crew neck. This features a rounded neckline that offers the beloved “baseball tee” look. Sleeves extend from the rounded neckline on a diagonal. 
  • V-Neck: As its name suggests, a V-neck raglan has a neckline that’s cut a little deeper than a crew neck, tapering to a point where the two sides of the neckline meet. The sleeves extend from the widest point of the neckline near the shoulder, with a diagonal seam that offers more room in the armpit area and greater range of motion at the shoulder.  
  • Scoop Neck: A scoop neck is like a hybrid of a crew neck and a v-neck. It offers more of a feminine silhouette. The neckline is still rounded like a crewneck, but has a wider and deeper plunge similar to a V-neck. Raglan sleeves start at the neckline band near the shoulder, with sleeves attached on a diagonal. 
  • Boat Neck: A boat neck, sometimes referred to as a “bateau neck” is a wide, slim neckline that stretches across the neck and shoulders, sitting just below the collarbones. This flattering neckline is not as revealing as a V-neck or scoop, but has a slimming effect on the neck. With a boat neck, raglan sleeves extend from the finished seam of the neckline and terminate near the shoulder. 
  • Henley: Think of a Henley neckline as a collarless polo shirt. A Henley has a crew or scoop neckline with a short vertical row of buttons down the middle of the neckline – typically, only two or three buttons. As the neckline is similar to a crewneck, raglan sleeves extend from near the shoulder point of a Henley’s neckline on a diagonal. 

Hem and Body Differences

Raglan tees have a range of different hem styles and body types, depending on the shirt itself. 

Raglan hem styles

  • Curved Hem: You’ll typically see a curved hem on most long-sleeve raglan shirts, giving the feel of a baseball tee. The hem curves in a semi-circle on both the front and back of the shirt, with the longest point extending down the center. The sides of a curved hem raglan are cut a little higher, giving the look of a longer torso and a more athletic feel. 
  • High-Low Hem: A high-low hem is shorter in the front and longer in the back. On raglan shirts, the high-low hem creates a flattering and trendy look that can feel both dressy and sporty. 
  • Banded Hem: You’ll typically see banded hems on raglan sweatshirts and hoodies. As its name suggests, a banded hem features a thick band of fabric at the bottom of the shirt. It adds a finishing touch and a bit of stretch, particularly if the band is made from ribbed knit.

Raglan shirt body styles

  • Classic Fit vs. Slim Fit: A classic fit raglan shirt has a straight, rectangular fit that skims the chest and body without being baggy. These shirts are universally flattering on all body types, especially for those with broader chests. By contrast, slim fit raglan tees are cut to cling more closely to the body and are slimmer through the chest and shoulder area. This fit works well for those with an athletic body type. 
  • Relaxed Fit: A relaxed fit raglan shirt has a looser, roomier fit than a classic fit tee. These types of raglan tees and shirts are great for all body types. 
  • Fitted Waist: A more feminine silhouette, a fitted waist raglan shirt or tee is similar to a slim fit, but nips in near the waist, forming an hourglass shape. This style of raglan is ideal for highlighting curves.

Raglan Sleeves vs. Traditional Sleeves

When comparing raglan sleeves vs. traditional sleeves, it can often be easier to see the difference in color-blocked shirts, where the sleeves are a different color than the body part of a shirt. 

Raglan sleeves start at a shirt’s neckline or collar. They are attached to the body with a diagonal seam that extends beneath the armpit (in the front) and crosses the shoulder blade in the back. diagonal seam. Raglan shirts are a great choice for active individuals who need a little extra room to pivot the shoulder or wind the arm back – as if you’re throwing a pitch in baseball – part of the reason why raglan shirts are often called “baseball-style tees.”

On the flipside, traditional sleeves are attached to the body of a shirt with a straight, vertical seam that extends from the top of the shoulder and ends below the armpit. These shirts have a more “formal” look compared to the sportier vibe of a raglan sleeve. 

Raglan Materials and Fabric Choices

Raglan shirts and tees come in a variety of fabric choices, each with their own unique benefits. Common raglan shirt fabrics include: 

  • Cotton: Durable and breathable, cotton raglan shirts offer comfort and endless color options. Consider different weights of cotton – from lightweight to heavyweight, as well as processes that make a raglan tee softer. Ring-spun and combed cotton raglan shirts can be absorbent and soft-to-the-touch. 
  • Poly-cotton blends: Raglan shirts that make use of a poly-cotton blend can be fantastic for athletic apparel, given their ability to wick moisture away from the body if you’re working up a sweat. Raglan tees with a blend of polyester and cotton typically offer more stretch, allowing shirts to better hold their shape. 
  • Tri-blend fabrics: Tri-blend raglan tees weave together cotton, polyester, and semi-synthetic rayon to give wearers the best of all worlds. The result is a raglan with a super soft feel that’s lightweight, durable, and breathable. Tri-blend raglan styles often have a more “vintage” look to them and can appear slightly marled or weathered. They also don’t shrink in the wash and hold their shape well. 

How to Style a Raglan Shirt

A raglan shirt can be the focal point of your look for a casual day of play or a relaxed-yet-polished night out. 

Athletic and Adventurous

If your ideal weekend involves squeezing in some athletic activity, a moisture-wicking raglan tee can be a great choice for an active session of batting practice. Similarly, a long-sleeved raglan can be a comfortable option for yoga class while you’re warming up. Raglan sleeves offer a greater range of motion through the shoulders, whether you’re winding up for a pitch or fully engaged in downward dog. Pair your raglan with a pair of casual joggers or yoga pants for maximum mobility. 

If you’re planning an outdoor adventure involving hiking or biking during crisp weather, a pullover or full-zip raglan hoodie can give you an added layer to brace against the elements. 

Casual Cool

A raglan can give you a casual, put-together look for a night out with friends or date night. For guys, a raglan polo offers a slightly more elevated style that’s ideal for a night out at a casual outdoor eatery. Consider pairing your polo with a pair of khakis or pleated dress pants. Similarly, a raglan Henley offers a streamlined, stylish look without a collar that’s equally attractive, but more relaxed and understated. Opt for dark- or medium-wash denim jeans, without any distressing for a laid-back look while out on the town. 

Ladies have just as many fun options to choose from. Whether you’re headed to a chill Sunday brunch or a Friday night get-together after work, a fitted three-quarter sleeve raglan can fit the bill. Consider wearing it with a skirt or pant that matches the color blocking on your shirt’s sleeves and neckline. Or opt for your favorite well-worn denim and fun sandals or ballet flats that play off color blocked hues. 

A raglan is made for movement and fun – so if that speaks to your personal style, there’s no right or wrong way to play it. Style is all about being comfortable in your own skin and the clothes you choose to announce to the world who you are. So, select colors that work with your complexion – or that just make you happy – and fits that work to play up your favorite features to put your best fashion foot forward. 

How to Care for Your Raglan Shirt?

Raglan shirts and tees are easy to care for. Most are wash-and-wear. Be mindful of any instructions printed on your shirt’s care label, as certain fabrics – such as all-cotton – may not be pre-shrunk and can shrink in the wash without proper attention. 

Other fabrics like poly-cotton and tri-blends are even easier to care for and are frequently wrinkle-free, whether they’re fresh out of the dryer or if they’ve been stored in your dresser drawer for a while. You can also hang your raglan tees and shirts in your closet, if you prefer. 

If and when the time comes to bid a fond farewell to your well-loved raglan, it can be upcycled into a cool tote bag. Simply slice off the collar and sleeves, stitch together the bottom portion of your shirt, and transform the sleeves into handles. Your favorite raglan shirt can now stay with you, just in a different form. 

For more ideas on styling (and re-styling) your favorite apparel, check out more helpful articles for inspiration on Clothing Shop Online

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